Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Popular Posts of 2013!

Honestly, I have reached that age where I can't even remember what happened in 2013. Life has become a blur. The years are whizzing by! 

One of the highlights of 2013  was having the governor of Delaware visit our class to start off American Education Week. We had a Mystery Skype and he LOVED it! We need to show our politicians what we can do besides test!! 

"Now, here's what I need Gov.Markell!"
Another highlight was meeting our Spain pen pals via Skype. The kids were delighted to meet each other "in person!"

With the help of Blogger's page views, I can pinpoint my most viewed blogs of 2013.  I share those with you. And if you didn't get a chance to read them when they were written, now is your chance!

Enjoy and Happy New Year to the best audience ever! May 2014 bring you what you need, and, what you want!

Here are the Top 5 posts for 2013!:

"I Apologize": An Open Letter to My Students

Math Worksheets Land: A Different Kind of Worksheet

Teachers, Targets, and Test Scores

Digital Yes! Native No!: The Myth About Digital Natives

Bill Gates: Experienced Educator:$50 Million Dollars Doesn't Lie!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Operation Feedback! Just Give Me 30 Minutes a Week, and You Too Will Be an Amazing Teacher!

I should have known something was wrong when the faculty meeting started with a video of Bill Gates EEE (Education Expert Extraordinaire) talking about what teachers need.

What does Bill think we need more than anything in the world? Feedback! I don't see anything wrong with feedback, but on a Top 10 list of things teachers need, this is not it.

But, what do I know? Who am I to contradict what Bill Gates has to say regarding any educational issues? So I sat, and stared mindlessly at the video, inwardly becoming more and more agitated as I listened to....

I couldn't imagine what this video had to do with why we were at this after school faculty meeting that had 30 extra minutes tagged onto it.

And then there it was, the A.N.T (Another New Thing)...Operation Feedback!

This is what I have to look forward to when I return to work in 2014:

  • An administrator or coach(my peer), will make an announced visit to my room, every week, for the rest of the school year.
  • They will watch me,  observe me, take notes, (or videotape me if I allow), for 15 minutes, every week.
  • They will read their notes and come up with an "action step" to correct whatever they observed that could be improved on. No, they will help me become a better teacher by pointing out my flaws every week. No, they will praise me, and then tell me what I am doing wrong, every week.
  • I will meet with them for about "15ish" minutes, every week, so we can discuss the "action step."
  • When they return the next week, they expect that I would have corrected what was discussed the previous week. (But do not despair, this is NOT evaluative!)
  • Then the process will begin again, EVERY WEEK
I do not mind an administrator coming into my room. I welcome feedback from administrators, peers, students, and parents. Even after 29 years, I am still learning. I can take constructive criticism, key word, constructive. As a matter of fact, I am one of those people who apply constructive criticism immediately. A good idea is a good idea, whomever the source.

I wrote a question on my Exit Ticket; 'What if you don't find anything to write an "action step" for?" The presenter who collected my ticket, read it, and laughed. "Are you saying you're perfect?"

Feedback is important. It helps us to grow in whatever profession we have chosen. But this, this is...I have no words. :(

Is this happening in any other schools? If so, is it beneficial?

photo credit: Caro's Lines via photopin cc

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year: An Educator's Resolutions!

SuccessintheClassroom

Have a Wonderful 2014!


 I resolve to:

  1. treat all students fairly, regardless of race, gender, age, behavior, a parent's nasty attitude, the comments from last year's teachers, or seemingly lack of interest in learning 
  2. continue to follow Rita Pierson's advice, and be a champion for my students
  3. to realize that all children can learn, but not always at the same pace
  4. stop using sarcasm as a disciplinary tool, no matter how effective it may seem. 
  5. speak in a quiet, even,tone, even when yelling seems to be the only option. (It never is!)
  6.  realize that I could be the only good thing that happens in a student's day 
  7. grade papers in a timely manner, and use their grades to guide instruction
  8. meet all deadlines, and if I'm late, don't make excuses
  9. stop gossiping! (Hard one for me sometimes)
  10. share with my colleagues, we are not in competition with each other.use technology as a tool to engage and empower my students, technology is not a subject!
  11. be involved in fighting what is happening in, and to, public education!
  12. be a lifelong learner (I am very good at this one!)
  13. don't just complain, get in there and work to make changes
  14. stand up for my beliefs, and what I believe is good for my students
  15. continue to be passionate about my job, and if I'm not, retire.:) 

Are there any resolutions you would add?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gift of Teaching:The Joy of Doing What I Do!


Today, I am going to put on my blinders.

I am going to, for the moment, forget all that plagues public education.


Teaching is a gift.

Not a gift, as in, this is my calling (although I do believe it is), but a gift as in a present to and for me.:) It is indeed a gift to do what I do.

Where else can I shake my booty to "OMG, It's the weekend", as we all dance to the Morning Meeting circle?

Crack up at corny jokes?

Come up with different ways to snap for correct answers?

Get, and give, hugs ?

Laugh, smile, play, run, and jump?

Watch a child's eyes light up because they "got it"?

Turn a frown upside down with a hug or few words?

Use the "thumbs up" sign and not feel like a dork?

View the world from a child's viewpoint?

Feel excitement as students are engaged in a project, or solving a problem?

Be a momma, daddy, psychologist, and a slew of other jobs ?

Feel pride, as they use all their skills, and guess that Mystery state or country?

Give high 5's that do not feel corny?

Help someone make better choices?

Bring a story to life, along with the joy of reading?

Watch a child beam when they go from frustrated to successful?

Open up the world, via Skype?

Have 20+ children every year?

Create a bond that may last forever?

Be part of the lives of so many people, big and small?

Have a different type of day, every single day?

Not worry about brain cells dying?

The gift of teaching.. a priceless present!









Monday, December 16, 2013

Every Kid Needs a Champion: Rita's Words and This Little Girl!



That quote inspires me.

This little girl handed me a paper with her Dad and Mom's contact information on it. It had their home phone number, cell phone number,  job number, and email addresses. I said, "I already have this information. Why are they sending it to me again?"

She responded, "Mrs.M, you have to understand, (this is how she speaks), for the past 4 years, my parents have been called for every single thing I did. They can't understand why you are not calling them."

I began on the path of champion for this little girl before she even entered my classroom.   Our relationship began the year before when she approached me with sheets of paper with her ideas for her magazine. Afterwards, I was asked to mentor her, and I tried. At the end of the year, I asked to have her placed in my class. I knew she was a "handful", but I also suspected that this image of her was not all there was.

This little girl stood up at Morning Meeting on Friday, and announced that she had the application form for staff for her magazine("KRM Magazine-Kidz Rule!") ready. She wanted to know who was interested, 1/4 of the students raised their hands. I suggested Google forms and a student willingly agreed to help her set it up. At the end of the day, she announced that the application was embedded on Edmodo and could be filled out over the weekend. Today, she announced who she had hired. My heart swells with pride about what she has accomplished, how she has turned around.

This little girl is by no means perfect, and neither am I. We understand each other. I care for her, and she knows this. She knows I want the best for her. 

As we packed up today, I felt arms grab me from behind in a hug. This little girl. I am her champion. We are connected.




Sunday, December 15, 2013

All I Want for Christmas:An Educator's List!

When my siblings and I were younger, my parents had us write a list of everything we wanted for Christmas. Of course, raising 5 kids, we never got everything we put on that list. But it felt so good writing it because you knew you were going to get something on that list.


MY EDUCATOR WISH LIST


1.productive professional development throughout the school year- teacher-driven PD,what a concept!

2.smaller class size - this year I learned that 5 less kids makes a HUGE difference


3.a deep-seated belief in my professional judgement- I do know what I'm doing

4.education as a priority - school is not a babysitting service

5.not another "new thing" - made up by non-educators

6.the complete removal of standardized testing- the word "standardized" is a problem

7.returning the arts and recess to public schools- they never left private schools

8.stop the war on public schools - and public school teachers

9.the integration of tech in the classroom - it is not a phase

10. the eradication of education "reform"- need I say more?

12.the continued expansion of my PLN - they make teaching terrific!

And most of all:
11.that I continue to grow and evolve as an educator- 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hour of Code: My Kids WILL CODE!

We missed the first 2 days of Computer Science Education Week because we had Snow Days. As much as I enjoyed those two days off , I was kinda bummed about not being able to have my class participate in the Hour of Code.

Wednesday, I had to leave early to attend a meeting, so we couldn't do it then.

Thursday, I made sure it was part of our day.

I began by discussing Computer Science Education Week (ho hum), and then segued into coding, (bodies fidgeted, eyes lit up, "Can we do that?"). I put  the Youtube video up on the Smartboard, lights went out, and 20 bodies grabbed carpet squares, bean bags, and video chairs and plopped themselves in front of the board. Amidst shouts of "Shakira", "Ashton", "President Obama!", and other assorted celebrities, I think they got the gist of what this coding thing is all about.

At the end of the video I yelled, "Is everyone ready to code?!" and a thunderous "Yeah!" rolled over me. Bodies flew to Chromes, desktops, and laptops to sign up for Tynker. I was prepared, I had placed the code for our class on Edmodo. (easy-peasy, lemon squeezy).

When I tell you they were excited!!!! Two or three were able to log in,("Mrs.M, I'm in, I got on!"), the rest were disappointed. I explained to them that people all over the world were trying to do the same thing they were, at the same time. The ones who got on went from "What do I do?" to "Hey, look what I did!" in the blink of an eye. My babies never cease to amaze me. Watching them sit and actually watch the tutorial was pleasure enough.

The ones who were not able to log in  were understandably frustrated, but that was good. They were frustrated that they couldn't get on and CODE.They were frustrated because they could not get on and do the work.  I told them not to worry, they could try it at home, and we will try again in school.

This is not a one week event for me. My kids WILL CODE!

Next week is S.M.A.R.T Kids Day at our school. The 5th grade team set up rotations, my rotation is coding. I want to give all the kids on our grade a taste, leaving them wanting more.

I love this idea! I love who thought of this idea! We have to challenge our students. We have to make sure they have the skills for the jobs that are now, not then. We have to teach them to code!




Saturday, December 7, 2013

November's Popular Posts!

Is it really December already? :)

November was a very exciting month for our class because we had a visit from the governor. He observed, and participated, in a Mystery Skype to kick off American Education week! The kids and I loved that he was there to see us do what we do!


Think about trying at least one Mystery Skype this year, you 

won't regret it!



Here are the top three popular posts for November:


Help!: I Cannot Do This "Education Thing" By Myself!



Creating a Caring Community in the Classroom: Morning Meeting!

10 "Gifts of the Heart" Teachers Can Give Their Students!

Of course, there are more than 10 things that we could give our darlings, but these are the ones that stood out in my mind. They're not in any particular order, just the way I thought of them.  Feel free to add your own! :)

1.     A smile. If you are miserable, they usually are too.

2.    Get rid of all those worksheets. Granted, if a student can't figure out 5 problems, they probably can't do 25 - 30 of the same thing.


3.    Talk to them about events  in their life. And maybe, share something from yours. Morning Meeting is a great place to practice this!

4.    Give them a fresh startEvery. Single. Day.

5.   Challenge them.  Don't view the students as part of  "the population." View them as individuals, each bringing their own gift to the table. Challenge them! They might surprise you!

6.    Provide consequencesWhether you believe it or not, they will thank you. 

7.    Remember they are only childrenOh boy, that's a hard one to do sometimes, I know. :)

8.   Try something new.  They don't learn the same way we used to teach. Let's teach the way they learn. Enhance a lesson with at least one new tech tool.

9.   Get off task.  Isn't it great to veer away from the planned topic for a bit?

10. Teach!   Let them learn at least one new thing per day.



photo credit: PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Just Follow the Script:Teaching by Textbook!

I tried.
I really tried.
Maybe there is something wrong with me.

I mean who wouldn't want a nice, new, clean book with every word you should say written out in nice, clean, bold text?

Who wouldn't want each lesson guided?
Each lesson telling you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it?

I tried.
I couldn't do it.

When it told me to say certain words, I found myself saying other words.
When it told me how to write something on the board, I was adding things, making comments.

No, that's not what I am supposed to do.
I am supposed to follow the script.
Why can't I realize that it makes me a better teacher? My life easier? The kids better learners?

Why, oh why, can't I follow the script?

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Productive Parent - Teacher Conferences: A P/T Form That Helps!


Year after year, I have tried to find a way to make my conferences more productive. I had attempted to find a way to share information with my parents so they had a clear understanding of where their child is. I had always felt frustrated, when after a parent had gone , and I would think, “Oh, I forgot to tell her/him….”  


A few years ago I created a form based on  some of the questions from a worksheet that my  Phi Delta Kappa sorer shared with me. There have been some revisions over the last two years, and I am sure there will be more.  The  first question I asked  is ” What are your concerns or comments?” This allowed my parents a chance to voice their concerns first.
We completed the form, using the questions to guide the conference and open discussion between myself and the parent. I felt that the form  answered questions parents have, but  forget or don’t think to ask. 

The following marking period, I reviewed  the first form with the parent, to see how it compared to the current marking period. 


After the form was completed, the parent signed it, providing not only a written document of what we discussed, but a guide for the parent.

When I used the form,  the conference moved along smoothly.  It is important to remember that it is a guide, not the end all and be all of the conference. I tried typing this year, but I gave up after the first parent. I didn't feel as if I was giving them my full attention. I kept the original, and sent a signed copy home to the parent. 


As a parent, I know conferences are not always easy, especially if the child is not doing well. Hopefully, my form made it easier to focus on  the purpose of the conference. Bringing together the parent and the teacher, in a productive atmosphere, to do whats best for their child and my student!

 Parent/Teacher Conference Form

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"If You Give a Teacher a Free Day...!".: Allowing Professionals to Develop Independently!

 

 This year, Monday and Tuesday were designated as Parent-Teacher Conference Days. If you didn't get a large turnout, you had some down time. What's a teacher to do?

If you look at PD days that are scheduled throughout the school year, you would be under the impression that teachers did not have a clue with what to do with "free" time. We are treated like children, and every single second of the day is booked. There is no "free" time given to the teacher, as if without the PD Agenda, our day would be a complete waste of time.Which is funny, because I feel like that at times, even with an agenda.

Well, we proved them wrong. We are professionals. We can manage our time. Teachers used their "free" time to do more than go to lunch together, hang out in the teacher's lounge, or gossip at their classroom doors.

As I walked through the hallways, teachers who were not holding conferences were planning as a team, or on their own. Teachers were in the copy room, running off work. Learning Maps were being hung in the classroom, and student work outside. Papers were being graded. Many teachers breathed a sigh of relief that they finally had some time within the school day to get work done. Yes, get work done!

So you see, we can do this. We can handle teacher-guided professional development days. Do we have to get rid of all workshops and/or agendas?  Of course not. Once in a while I have attended a workshop that was productive. But, if you give a teacher a "free" day... she or he will work!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Write 50 Times:"I Will Turn in My Progress Report":Why is This Still Happening?

I was talking to my lil sis the other night, and she told me about an incident she had with my nephew's teacher. Keep in mind two things. One, my nephew is a senior in high school. Two, he is a teacher's dream.:)

It all started when my nephew did not turn in his progress report. When it happens in my classroom I have different ways I handle it. I give the student another day, write a note in their agenda book, email or call the parent, or more than likely, have the student call the parent.

The option chosen by my nephew's teacher,  the high school senior AND a teacher's dream, was to write 50 times, "I will bring in my progress report." He refused.

When he told my sister what happened, she backed his decision. I would have done the same thing. She emailed the teacher. She was polite and respectful,  trying to find out what had happened, and why she thought this was an inappropriate way to handle this situation.

This is part of my sister's email:
     "These students are on their way to college and will have to learn how
     to be responsible on their own. High school usually provides a
     gateway to that growth not a hindrance.

     I appreciate what you do and am in no way challenging your ability to
     teach your classroom, as I said before I like how you take an
     interest in the students. This is specifically in regard to writing
     "I will not..." 50x."

My sister waited a week, no response. Not one to let things go, no "que sera sera" attitude with my sis when it comes to her kids, my sis emailed her again.

This is the teacher's response after the second email:

"Hi Ms._________________,

Yes, what N told you was true.  The progress reports were distributed to
all the students on Thursday of that week.  I asked them to get it signed
and returned the next day.  I gave them until Monday to return it without
penalty and for each day that is was not returned after Monday, students
were expected to write sentences for me during guided study.  This is my
policy and I understand if you do not agree with it.
         
Yes, he should have turned in his progress report. I also see nothing wrong with having a policy in place when these events occur. But, I have to ask.  Why would a high school teacher use this as a method to develop responsibility? Why would any teacher? It was inane back in whatever time someone thought this up, and it seems even more ridiculous now. What does it accomplish? (And I'm not even going to touch on the fact that during "guided study", a student is writing 50X, "I will bring in my progress report").

All you get out of it is a student with cramped fingers, resentment of the teacher, and possibly sucking the joy out of writing for a lifetime. It sends the message that writing is a mindless act that is not to be enjoyed. Why send that message to your students? And if I'm not mistaken, isn't it seen as a form of corporal punishment?

Watch the opening credits at the beginning of  The Simpsons? Has Bart ever changed? I do realize he is a cartoon character. :)

I have had students write, but not as a punishment. They may have to write down what happened in a situation. Or maybe write what they can do to change a situation. But write 100X, " I will not....." Never!

I am going to write this sentence one time: "I will not make students write the same sentence 100 times because it is not productive!" And I hope you don't either.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Creating a Caring Community in the Classroom: Morning Meeting!

If I could only use one aspect from Responsive Classroom, I would choose Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting has created an environment in my classroom that I love not only witnessing, but being a part of. We use responsive Classroom in our district, however, this is not an infomercial for Responsive Classroom. :) I just love what it has done for my classroom community.

There are four components to Responsive Classroom's Morning Meeting. The greeting, sharing, activity, and the message. With the time constraints placed on us, it is difficult to get to all sections every day. The sections I make sure I get to are the greeting and sharing.

Most days my students treat their peers with respect and kindness. The majority of them are very mindful of the way they treat each other. I believe a lot of that comes from the way we start our day. Every morning the students greet each other in a variety of ways and share something from their lives. Morning Meeting helps us start each day on a positive note.

The other day I decided to try the "Compliment" greeting. Students greeted each other, and offered a compliment. I told my students I didn't want them to use bland terms such as, "I like your dress", but to really think about something they liked about the person they were complimenting. I was blown away by the sincerity in their statements. It allowed me to see that Morning Meeting wasn't just something to get through, that it actually affected the way my students interacted with each other.

Sharing is another favorite. Some days only 3 kids share, some days, they are allowed to pass or share. No pressure.:) The other day, a student shared how she was trying to get into a specialized school. She stated that the previous night she practiced her monologue diligently. Immediately, the other kids encouraged her to share the monologue. We all listened intently as she performed, and when she finished, there was thunderous applause.

One of my students, whom had clashed with this young lady a number of times throughout the school year, raised his hand. He said, "I just want you to know, I can tell by your monologue that you are going to be a great actor." Surprised, her eyes widened, a grin spread across her face. She was surprised at this statement from her "nemesis", and she said, "Why thank you." You could tell how moved she was by his statement.

I was moved. This is what I am  trying  to build in my classroom. I strongly believe that teaching them to be caring, respectful, human beings is just as important as the rest of the curriculum. Teaching them to get along, and care for, and about, someone besides themselves. It is so much easier to teach, and learn, in a classroom where students believe they are part of a family, and not just bodies in the room. When there is a sense of community it leads to caring!

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Skype in the Classroom" Presentation (Updated)

For those of you who didn't know; "SlideRocket is hard at work integrating key features into the ClearSlide platform, and due to both technical and practical reasons, we will no longer be integrating with Google Apps or offering Lite accounts of any type beyond the end of the year." Therefore, if you have any of your presentations on Sliderocket, you better download it before December 31st or all is lost!



Seeing as how SlideRocket is closing down, and I was presenting Skype in the Classroom at a tech conference, I decided to update my little presentation. Words of wisdom, take advantage of the Skype in the classroom site, it offers amazing opportunities for your students to engage in some "real world" learning!!

   
                           

Our Students and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy: Avoiding Gloom and Doom!

I remember when I was in college a LONG time ago, we learned about the self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't recall the professor who taught it, but somehow it has managed to stay in my head after all these years.  If you believe it, it could happen, good or bad, positive or negative, our expectations influence those around us. When the professor introduced this concept, he wanted to emphasize the damage we could do to our students if we had preconceived notions about them and what they were capable of.
In the education field this is particularly true.  We have a huge impact on what happens to the hundreds of lives who sit in our classrooms, year after year.  How many times have we heard successful people credit a teacher who believed in them? Teachers who refused to believe that  a particular student would amount to nothing?
Too many times I have heard comments about what "the population" of a school is,or is not, capable of.  I have witnessed students who were judged by the behavior that they exhibited in prior years. Trying to get teachers to incorporate technology in their classrooms, and  being told that the students "can't" do it. Determining the intelligence of  a child based on the behavior of a parent or sibling.
I have always had high expectations for my students, I refuse to lower my standards to fit a mold others think they fit in.  I hold them responsible for their education and believe that they are capable of so much. And I have found, repeatedly, that most of my students rise to my expectations. 
  If we continue to teach students according to our expectations of them, and our expectations are low, what will the results be? If the Robins are challenged every day, and the Sparrows aren't, when do the Sparrows get a chance to spread their wings, to fly beyond our enforced limits?
I had a student who was truant the previous school year.  When he arrived in my class, the pattern began again.   He would show up for school twice a week, if that.  According to statistics, the general consensus wass that he would eventually drop out of school, and his life would be pretty bleak. It might be, particularly because he was 13 in the 5th grade, but, I was not deterred by that "prophecy." I chose to believe that he would succeed.   
He missed one day in the weeks that followed. His grades improved, and he was willing to share his thoughts and work. He participated in discussions. He High-fived me every morning and afternoon. (The afternoon High 5 was always accompanied by the word, "tomorrow.") He was so much more than a statistic to me.
I know, it's pretty idealistic. "I believe, and if I believe , it can happen." I realize that this is not always the case. But wouldn't it be great if our prophecies were positive, and most of them were fulfilled?
Originally posted on "Diary of a Public School Teacher"(Wordpress)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Help!: I Cannot Do This "Education Thing" By Myself!


Usually, I take this "education thing" in stride. I deal with the every day ins and outs, trying to avoid as much stress as possible. But the other day, grrrrrrrr....I was so frustrated! I can not do this education thing by myself! I need this to be understood.

As much as the buck seems to stop with me, I can't do it by myself. As often as it seems that I am doing it by myself, because others can't, or won't, it shouldn't work that way.Other people have to step in to make it a success.

I know it happens. A child is sent to school and the only learning that takes place is in the classroom. There is no conversation at home. No one picks up a book. No one makes sure that homework is done. The responsibility of the adult that gave birth to this wonderful human being is next to none. And that child is successful, nevertheless. But that does not happen often enough.

We need our babies, no matter how old they are, to go home and have a conversation. Need them to eat dinner at a table and talk about their day. Someone to read a bedtime story. Someone to make sure homework is done, or that they watched the video that will help where they are having trouble. Someone to smile at something they have written. Someone to look at photos of amazing things being done in the classroom. Someone to respond to an email, a letter, a phone call.

I am doing my part. And no, I don't want to hear how I need to step up because others won't. I am tired of hearing that! I always step up, and over, and beyond. Maybe that's how we got in this mess in the first place. If someone else is always willing to go that extra mile, the other person can always take a few steps back.

I told my kids the other day, "If someone is struggling, and they do nothing at all to change their circumstances, they will continue to struggle." If someone does not take advantage of all that is put forth to help them, they will continue to struggle." "It's okay to try, and still struggle, but to do nothing..."

A ray of light shone on me that gave me hope. Maybe someone heard my little speech. A student who had been struggling with math concepts came in and was knocking it out of the ballpark! I laughed and said, "Girl, you are on the ball today! What did you do?" She beamed, "Mrs.M, I studied!" Snaps and a high five! That's all I ask. Meet me part of the way, and let's make this "education thing" happen!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Student-Directed Learning:Giving Students the Rein!

The other day I taught  a lesson on volume. Actually, it was a lesson on knowing the formula V= L X W X H or V=B X H. Teaching back in the 80's, I  would have written the formula on the board, and had my students copy it.  Then I would give them  a worksheet with enough Volume
problems to fill a water tank. I would expect them to learn how to multiply the factors, and that would be enough. Whether or not they actually understood what volume was not an issue. All they needed to know was the formula.

Fast forward to the year 2013, where I don't use that method to teach anymore. My learning is student-directed, they are required to problem-solve. Using cubes and containers, the day before, I got my students to understand what volume actually is. So, now how to get them to figure out the formula without the cubes. What to do? What to do?

I gave them a box. A box lid and cubes. My directions?  Find the volume of the lid without putting the cubes inside the container. I told them that I would love to hear the vocabulary we had learned in their discussions and then I let them loose!

The results were amazing! I got out of the way and let them go. It was a joy to walk around the room, and immerse myself in the discussions they were having. The vocabulary we learned rolled off their tongues, and ideas of how to accomplish this task were shared, revised, and tried.  They were engaged from the beginning to the end. In the end, every group was able to come up with the formula for volume! I was very proud of the work they had done.

More and more, I have embraced this as my method of teaching. I have become a facilitator of learning, rather than the leader, the head honcho in charge. I am putting more control of the classroom in student hands, and I am enjoying the results!

"Music to My Ears!" AND a FREE GIVEAWAY!



I always begin our classroom day with music. This school year, I took advantage of Pandora, and have classical music playing as my kids came in the door. I believe it helps start their day in a calm, soothing, manner.

Music has always been a huge part of my classroom. Whether it's entering the room, ending the day, or singing out loud with educational music videos. I believe music should not be relegated to the Music room. Here's the thing though, I have always had a difficult time finding music that was not only appropriate for my 5th graders, but also something they would like.

So, I was happy when I was asked by  Zeamu Music to try out their CD with my students.

"ZEAMU MUSIC is a new record label that’s been launched specifically for children aged 4 to 11 by a collective made up of some of the music industry’s hottest producers, musicians and composers. As parents themselves, the founders of Zeamu Music couldn't find any music specifically made for kids and concerned about providing music that allows parents to engage with their children without the worry of exposing them to music with adult themes." 

The songs are sung by kids and they are about topics that children can relate to. "Alone in the Dark", "Beat the Bullies", and "School" are just a few of the titles.

It also arrived just in time for me to "steal" the new teacher's idea of transitioning with music. I love the "It's the Weekend" song! It's upbeat and gives my kids a chance to dance off some of that energy before we move onto the next activity. (See Youtube video below) They even have a site with free stuff which includes the lyrics to each song. 

Are you interested in bringing this music to your classroom? Three lucky winners will receive a FREE copy of Zeamu's Music CD! Just leave a comment below.(YOU MIGHT HAVE TO CLICK THE WORD "COMMENT"IN ORDER TO LEAVE A COMMENT)I will choose a winner using Random.org on November 9,2013! (Please make sure you leave your name)



Monday, October 21, 2013

A Common Core Fairy Tale: In a Land Far, Far, Away!

I have never seen a profession where the last person's opinion that is valued are the actual people doing all the work. Everyone, and their mother, has an opinion on how to educate our children.  The sad part is that these people are taken seriously, whereas the "lowly" teacher's opinion is scoffed at.

In a land faraway, Common Core came to town. Teachers were asked their opinions, and many felt it was too much too soon. They did not have a problem with Common Core per say, but they thought it should be tested, researched. They wanted to see how it worked with our students before we rushed into anything.

But what did those silly teachers know? So Common Core was implemented with great fanfare! Dum,dum, dum, dum! People in every kingdom rushed to use it. "We must have these for our students!", they said, everyone else is using it!" The king has promised us untold wealth if we use it."

But the teachers said, "Are you sure we should do this?" The testing alone will cost millions. Buying entire resources to support this program, we really know nothing about, could bankrupt us."

"Pshaw", said those who always know better. "It will work. We have come up with a way to make it work. The students' scores will be tied to your evaluations!"

"Ha Ha Ha Ha!"

The teachers went to their administrators and asked for the resources they needed to implement this new thing. Administration said,  "We don't really have any money in the budget for new resources,just find a way to teach it. You are very good at that."

Suddenly, all around them, Common Core rained down from the heavens. Everywhere they turned, they were met with Common Core! Common Core ELA, Math, Writing, scripted material that promised to turn them into a...

"Please", teachers begged. Can we please get something to help get across what you want?"

"I have just the thing", said the administrator, "Dry erase paddles for every child!"

"But, we need books, novel sets would be a great start..."

"SILENCE!", thundered the great and mighty King of Education. We know what's best for your students. Who are you to question me, I mean us?"

The teachers bowed down before the King of Education, "Your highness, we are sorry, your wish is our command." They walked away, heads bowed, silenced. And thus, Common Core now rules over all lands far,far,away.

EXCEPT for the few who were not afraid to speak out. Remember, we matter and our voices count!



Saturday, October 12, 2013

I Suffer from FOEA- Fear of Education Acronyms!


I didn't always fear acronyms. Acronyms like PEMDAS, RARE, SWAP, are good acronyms. Their sole job? To help my students remember, like all good acronyms do.

But alas, acronyms have become something for teachers to fear. Whenever, there is a new acronym introduced into education, it strikes fear in our hearts. You know what I'm talking about. It seems that about every 6 months, a new one is introduced. One that I'm really afraid of in DE is,  DCAS (Delaware ...) Ok, I can't lie, I don't even know what it stands for! I just know it means test the hell out of our kids.

Within the past year, we have been introduced to the Common Core Standards(CCSS). Supposedly, it will help prepare our children to be College and Career Ready(CCR), using terms like RI(Reading Informational),  RL(Reading Literacy), NBT(Numbers and Operations in Base Ten, etc... My head is about to burst!

We have to create lesson plans using the LFS(Learning Focused Schools) templates to prepare our students for SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment ), which will be completed using CBT(Computer Based Testing). Of course my evaluation, DPAS (Delaware Performance Appraisal System), will be tied to these scores.We are fully aware that all the testing nonsense started with NCLB (No Child Left Behind), another wonderful education acronym.

And the one I fear most of late? ANT (Another New Thing). Every time this acronym rears it's ugly head, I find myself buried beneath it.

You know what acronym I would like to introduce to the powers that be? It's a long one. PLMAALMT(Please Leave Me Alone and Let Me Teach). Now, that's an acronym I could love!:)



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Teach Them Like They're Future Presidents!

A conversation in a workshop, in a classroom, in a school, in a district, in a city, in a state, in our country. An unfortunate conversation that has probably been repeated many times across the U.S.

Discussing a real world problem while teaching volume:
Presenter/Teacher:  We need to give the kids a real world application. I think this problem would be great for that.
Teacher 1:  Yes, that's an excellent way to teach that concept.
Presenter/Teacher: After all, let's face it. These kids will probably be filling boxes for a living anyway.
Teacher 2(indignantly) :  I don't know what kids you're talking about! The kids in my class are going to be future presidents, or CEO's!
Presenter/Teacher:     (crickets)

And that's who we should be teaching, future presidents. Future CEO's, astronauts, computer geniuses, authors, and inventors. That's how we should be teaching, as if the future is theirs for the taking. As if this is what we are preparing them for. Is there only one type of kid who gets to be taught this way?

Because you know what? If it has already been decided that they are going to be nothing but "box fillers", then that's the way they will be taught. If it has already been decided that they are going to be pregnant in middle school, then that's the way they will be taught.

If it has already been decided that there is not much that will come of their lives because mom is a single parent, they are African-American, Mexican, poor "white trash" , living below the poverty line, dad is in jail, grandma is raising them, or any of the other reasons teachers have used to crown themselves foreseers of the future of their students' lives, then that is how they will be taught!

 They will not be challenged. The expectations for them will be little or none. When they ask for challenges, they will be dismissed. They will become a "population" of students of which nothing is ever expected.

And unless, they get a teacher or a mentor who will treat them as if they can be somebody, their life is destined to be where that  teacher said it would lead. Then in a few years, that teacher can pat them-self on the back and say, "I told you so!" smiling smugly, satisfied.

Will some of them end up working in McDonald's? pregnant? Of course, life happens. But while they are in our care, while they still have a chance, let's teach them as if they a future president!



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Saying No:Sometimes It Has to Be Said!

Many Sundays, I go to church and watch some of the little kids in our church behave however they wish. They wander down the aisle, stand on the pew, and the parent says nothing. Now, don't get me wrong, I love little kids in church, sometimes they lead to grown folk in church, which is nice.  However, I think there is a point when the parents should say no, this is not acceptable.

When I go to the supermarket, I watch children run through the store. The parent calmly continues shopping, calling out the names of their little, (or big), ones as if playing Marco Polo. Meanwhile, caring adults keep them from harm's way.

Sitting in a restaurant, a little one practically climbs over the booth onto your back. The parents smile, as if they are helpless to control the behavior of their child.

I know some of us had it rough growing up, and we don't want our children to go through what we went through, but you know what? Someone's going to have to disappoint a child once or twice in their life and tell them no, tell them this is not going to work.

No, you have to stay in the pew.  No, you can not stand on the bench. No, you can not run around the store. And, no, you have to stay on our side of the booth. And, if an explanation is deemed necessary by the adult, by all means do so.

When the children of "Yes" attend school, it's a shock to their system.
"Oh,no he/she didn't just tell me I couldn't..."
Or, they want a lengthy explanation as to why they can't or they think it's up for debate. I'm sorry, I don't have that kind of time, and I have way too many students. (I find that establishing rules, routines, and procedures helps eliminate the need for an explanation.)

When raising my own children, there were times when I gave in, and times when I said no, There were times I explained, and times when I went to the tried and true method, "because I said so."

As adults, we have to learn to say no to others as well, not just children. No, I am not attending that workshop. No, I choose not to use this in my classroom. No, I am not giving the test on the deadline date, my students are not ready. No, I am not willing to accept your evaluation of my teaching skills. And in an adult to adult case, I would definitely explain why.

Here's the thing with "no" though. It's a lot harder than "yes." When you say no, you have to be able to back it up. If you say no, you can't stand on the bench, and you give a full explanation for why, chances are that kids is still going to stand on the bench. When you say you are not attending another meeting, or doing another "thing", chances are you might experience retribution. "No" is not easy.

It's okay to say No. If we're going to create responsible adults, and/or maintain our sanity, sometimes "No" has to be said.





photo credit: nathangibbs via photopin cc

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Happy Teacher!

Teacher Happy's Class

 I am going to share something about myself that I am not proud of. However, in the interest of this post, it has to be shared.

Many, many, years ago when I was in my 3 or 4th year of teaching, I worked with a woman who was always happy. She got on my nerves. Actually, she got on the nerves of a friend/colleague of mine as well. Oh, she was so cheery. Every day, she was sooooo cheery, we couldn't stand it!

So we came up with a plan. She taught in the grade above us, so as we set up next year's class, we placed some of the worst behaved kids in her class. She wasn't as happy after that. Years later, I have become this teacher. I now understand where she was coming from.

She didn't feel the need to be miserable with the rest of us. She didn't feel the need to be bogged down every day with the negativity the rest of us carried on our shoulders. She loved her job, her students, and had a passion for teaching which we could not understand, and thus, we became haters.

I am her now. I truly enjoy my job. And no, I am not living in some fantasy world where the students are angels, administration grants my every wish, parents are 100% supportive, and the public loves me. And yet, I am not deterred from going into work with a smile, a cheery good morning(even if the recipient does not reply), and a pretty,darn, good attitude. As I walk through the hallways, I smile and say hello to students who are not mine. I shout "Good Morning" at my students during Morning Meeting and they yell back at me. I hang out in the Teacher's Lounge with the new teacher and my peers, laughing, not over the misfortunes of others,(although we are not exempt from gossip now and again), but at our own silliness. I enjoy this feeling, and I will not part with it.

I see no point in whining and complaining all day. Do I whine at times? Yes. Do I complain once in a while? Of course! But I spend most of my days at work having a good time with my students and colleagues.

And you know what I have noticed over the years? My happiness makes my students happy. My ability to laugh, joke, and provide them with opportunities to have a good time, helps to produce students who are much more willing to learn. Happiness has its merits. :)

I wish I could find that teacher and apologize for my behavior. But knowing that I can't, I will continue being what she was, a happy teacher. :)



Saturday, September 14, 2013

We Can't All Be the Principal!

I attended a Panamanian reunion a few years ago, and my Aunt Katherine introduced me to some of her friends. She introduced me as her niece, the principal. I laughed and told her that I was not a principal. She said, "Oh, an assistant principal." No, not that either. "Well, you will be one some day." I told her that I wouldn't because I enjoyed being a classroom teacher. I don't think she believed me.:)

I enjoy being a classroom teacher. I enjoy being with the students, as exhausting as that may be. I love the interaction with my students, the planning, the engagement, I would miss it if I left the classroom. When I entered the profession, this was what other teachers loved as well. Unfortunately, too many people are entering our profession with their sights set on what the future holds outside the classroom, and not what's in the classroom, our kids.

I don't know how many times I have heard teachers, just entering the profession, letting everyone know how soon they will leave the classroom. I knew a teacher who had a 5 year plan.  I had a TFA'er tell me that she was going to be a lawyer. As we speak, she is in law school, after spending 2 years "teaching."Too many times the classroom is regarded as a stepping stone to being an administrator or to another career.

I don't have a problem with people becoming administrators, resource teachers, etc... We need those people just as much as we need teachers in the classroom. But I question what happened to experience being a good thing? What happened to learning the ropes, becoming good in one thing before moving on to the next? What happened to spending the first year focused on teaching instead of how many committees you can join so you meet the "right" people?

I don't want a principal who has taught for only 3 years. I want an administrator who actually knows what it feels like to be in the classroom. I wouldn't want  my child taught by someone whose sole ambition is to be "anything but a teacher in the classroom", in X number of years.

A friend of mine recounted the story of a running into a woman who was currently working at her former school. She told the woman she had also been a teacher at the school. The woman haughtily replied, "I am not a teacher, I am the vice principal." Well... excuuuuusssse me! When one profession is thought to be "better", no wonder getting out of the classroom is a goal.

I think I would be a pretty good administrator if all I had to do was deal with the kids. But I know it is so much more than that. I know it is a difficult job that has demands from the students, parents, staff, administrators, I became exhausted just thinking about it. I think people crave the title and the salary, and don't realize the work they have to put in.

There's nothing wrong with looking beyond the classroom. But if you're stepping on the heads of our children in order to see the road ahead, there's definitely something wrong with that. And as wonderful as the title sounds, we can't all be the principal.

photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Digital Citizenship : A Presentation for Your Students


In June, I read a wonderful idea created by Comfortably 2.0.  He took simple objects, put them in a bag, and created the Digital Citizenship Survival Kit. Well, I didn't feel like getting those things together, so I made a digital presentation based on his survival kit.

Today I read Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension's, "Why the Internet is like the Mall". I loved the analogy she made between being safe in the mall and being safe online. So I added that to the presentation as well. I am going to present it to my students again, making sure we discuss the Mall-Internet analogy.

Great ideas to keep our kiddies safe online!





photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Do I Have to TEACH Reading?

I watched my kids today after we came in from Recess and loved what I saw.They were sprawled all over the room. Some were in the Sponge Bob duct taped "used to be my sons'"video chairs. Some sat on the fluffy pink and aqua bean bags I purchased in Five Below. (They were on sale.:)) Others grabbed the carpet strips I begged asked my local Home Depot for last year.
They were reading.

During the summer, I came across the app, Level It Books, and decided it was time to get my classroom library in order. I went to the Dollar store and purchased baskets. (I spend way too much money on this classroom). I scanned in every book I had and I was ready! Today my kids checked out books via my Smartphone, and I began reading.

I let them choose the books they wanted to read, regardless of Grade level, Lexile Score, or genre, their choice. And except for one young lady who was trying to distract her peers, they were all reading!
The point I'm trying to make is they were reading, and I wasn't talking.

I wasn't talking about cause and effect, main idea, figurative language,making inferences,etc... all the things we are forced to teach as a skill, instead of  "teaching" it as we enjoy a great story. I wasn't going to make them take a quiz. (Although AR will be enforced very soon.) I am sure if my students and I began discussing the stories they were reading, I could cover most or all of those skills over a period of time, without sucking the joy out of the story.

When we participate in Global Read Aloud, I give my students a chance to enjoy the story through discussion with students all over the world. And unbeknownst to them, it's through discussion that we touch on the skills that enhance, and lead, to a greater understanding of a story.

I love novel studies, or book clubs, or whatever it's called where you are, because it gives our students the chance to delve into a good book. A six page story in an anthology just doesn't cut it.A "making inferences" worksheet with an attached  paragraph is no match for the skills that can be taught with a novel!

Why do I have to TEACH reading? I guess the question is more, "Why do I have to teach reading skills as if it is a separate entity from actual reading?" Does that make sense?




Boldt, Katie. chooseadearbook.jpg. . Pics4Learning. 28 Aug 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

PARENTS: Tips for a Successful School Year!




The other day as I was listening to the Tom Joyner Show, Jeff Johnson came on and shared, "Be a Role Model: 4 Back to School Steps for Parents".

Somewhere along the way, we have given parents a free pass. Somewhere along the way, many, not all, of our parents have fallen off the triangle. Some have dropped out of being involved in their child's education. Many teachers go out of their way to engage our parents. Unfortunately, very few take advantage of what is offered.

Jeff made a note that it's not that some parents don't want to help, they just don't know HOW. I found this thought interesting. So, I took the word PARENTS , combined my thoughts and Jeff's, and came up with these tips.

Participate: You do not have to volunteer in the school every day in order to be a participant in your child's education. Attend an assembly, a class presentation, volunteer to read, or chaperone a field trip. Participate virtually. Read the notes your child brings home, help with homework and/or projects, write on their blog, call or email the teacher. Do something that lets your child know that you are an active participant in their education.

Advocate:  You know your child better than anyone else. Advocate for them. Get to know their teacher from Day One. Attend Open House and find out what, and how, they will be learning, Make sure you are aware of important dates. If something is wrong, talk to the teacher first. If it's not fixed, take the next step. Be there to make sure your child gets the education they deserve.

Read: Read to your child. Read with your child. Have your child read to you.Find books they enjoy. If you can't afford to purchase books, go to the public library, or make sure your child takes advantage of the school library.Allow them to read what is interesting to them, picture books,comic books, newspapers, graphic novels. If you have Internet access, read books online.Ask them questions about what they are reading.

Encourage them. Make them understand that you believe in them. I know that I had to stop myself from continuously focusing on where my children were struggling. It's easy to get lost in that. Let them understand that you are behind them 100%. Encourage them to do what's right, resist peer pressure, work hard, and not give up.

Notify the teacher if circumstances change. Many times we don't want people to "know our business." But your child is our business, and when there are major changes in their life, it's best if we know. Maybe we can't help with your problem, but we can make necessary changes in the classroom. The parents in my class always notified me when there was a death in the family, divorce, etc... because their children were affected by these events.

Turn off the television and video games. Talk to your child. Ask them about school, and don't let them get away with saying, "nothing." Talk about your time in school. Talk about your job. Have a meal together, if it's possible. I found out a lot of what was going on in my children's life just by sitting together at the table, and talking.

Sacrifice. Sometimes you have to give up something to get what you want. In this case, we want our children to get the best education they can.  It could be something as simple as a sacrifice of time, but that sacrifice could make a huge difference in a child's life.

I created a poster of these tips to hand out to my parents at Open House, hopefully, it will help.





Friday, August 16, 2013

"Where I'm From" Using Poetry as an Introduction!(Back to School)

A teacher on Edmodo suggested this activity as a way to begin the year. I agree. It's not only a wonderful way for you to get to know your students, but it gives you insight into how they write without the pressure of a prompt. (Hopefully,"What I Did On My Summer Vacation" writing assignment has gone the way of the dinosaur.)

My intention is to use Google Docs to collaboratively brainstorm all the things we would want to tell people about ourselves. Then I will use the example that was written, and identify what we learned about the author from her poem. I've decided to use a student example I found online as well, to help them fully understand what this format is about. In the end though, I want them to define it themselves. There is a lesson on Scholastic designated for grades 9-12, but I am going to make it work for my 5th graders.

I will save these on Google, create a flipbook , or a Narrable, definitely find a way to present it as a class project. We have book binder machines so I will create a book to keep in the classroom all year.

I don't expect this to be done in one day. I hope my students will learn more about themselves as they write, so I, and the other students can understand who, and why, they are. I will also revisit their poems as we learn more about imagery and figurative language.

I created my own, "Where I'm From.."poem (Warning:Work in Progress)
I'm from BROOKLYN.
I'm from Panamanians, who for a better life, immigrated to los Estados Unidos.
I'm from running, bike riding, handball until it hurts, darkness telling you it's time to go in.
I'm from reading on the porch, teased, face to face, not Facebooked.
I'm from wanting to be a teacher to being one, not playing when it comes to "my kids".
I'm from laying on the beach, warmth bathing my skin, laughter touching my heart.
I'm from singing God's praises loud enough for him to hear me.
I'm from mother of two handsome, strong-willed, hard-headed sons, wife to a strong man who loves me like a bee loves honey!
I'm from salsa, reggae, R & B, and Daddy's,(God bless his soul), Motown playing loudly every day.
I'm from Mommy raising 5 kids and not letting them know life for her wasn't a crystal stair.
I'm from lost deep in a good book. I.can't. hear. you.
I'm from National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc./RHO Chapter, strutting like a peacock in my red and gold.
I'm from confident, yet, not conceited.
I'm from loving who I am!





photo credit: Paul Lowry via photopin cc